Continuing with my Alamo area canyon and ridge off trail exploratories, today was one I really expected very little to come of. So many of these narrow out, cliff out, or shrub out, forcing an early exit to an adjoining ridge to get out of the drainage. This one, well it was not like that. It was a delight. While no great towering drama of side cliffs, it did have a constantly changing rock formation to enjoy. There were numerous bedrock ledges nicely angled up, and narrow passages, minor bouldering... and a great 40' slotted stairstep waterfall formation. The first 2.5 miles was just nice. Above that point, the canyone cliffed out, forcing a very shrubby bushwhack, then a 15' vertical climb... very nice chimney crack (no exposure!!) that I thought was going to be a piece of cake until I got to the top edge and noted it had a toll keeper: young agave blocking the lip. Oh, well...
From there on, the canyon narrowed... lots of bouldering and minor climbs, with lots of rotten rock. Still, it provided a clear path all the way to the top. Can't complain about that.
From there, I followed the Ortega/Dry Canyon Traverse over into Dry Canyon... first time to follow that path all the way down to the bottom of Dry... and though I've hiked Dry Canyon dozens of times, I could not begin to imagine where this trail intersected. Once over and down I could see why... it starts out as just a non-path off of a jeep track. If you did not know it was there, you'd likely never find its beginning.
I stopped for a lunch break and was surprised to have my legs cramping up... must have been from the vertical climbs; not used to those yet and probably used way too much energy. Oh, well... after I got going again it cleared up.
Once over into Dry I figured I might as well do the long loop around the back side of Ortega Peak, hit Hershberger Peak, then return on the old reliable T119. Noted that they had installed new east side trailhead sign for T119... but in a mile from West Side Road??? Odd... probably to allow ATV to have access to that mile portion... but a bit odd to have a big sign out a mile in from the road access!
It was interesting to spend some time gazing across the drainages. As I slowly hike all the ridges and canyons the area is coming into a different perspective focus for me... with connections and disconnects now included when I look at an area. Years more needed to cover it all, just in this one small area. More and more I am coming to like and appreciate the hiking here. The day hikes in Tucson were nice, but you still have to hop in a car to get to them, and the canyons there do not rival what is here. There must be over 20 ridge and canyon hikes here in Alamo within walking distance of my house.
If I continue to discover little gems like Ortega Canyon, they'll be nice years.